A key part of each orientation for our OWL program is asking folks to think about the sexuality education they received as a child or youth. Think about it for a minute, what were you taught? Was it through school? Did your parents talk to you about it? Did you learn from your peers? What books did you read? What feelings are associated with your own sexuality education? As a facilitator for these orientations, I can tell you that shame comes up a lot. I am here to tell you, there is no shame in our sexuality education.
From the OWL website: Honest, accurate information about sexuality changes lives. It dismantles stereotypes and assumptions, builds self-acceptance and self-esteem, fosters healthy relationships, improves decision-making, and has the potential to save lives.
The Our Whole Lives program is a comprehensive sexuality education program with levels of curricula ranging from kindergarten through adults. One of the most common questions I get when talking about the OWL program is, “What are you teaching little kids about sex?” My answer is that we’re not really teaching little kids about sex. We’re teaching them about their bodies, and how they are in control of their own bodies. We’re teaching them about families and about how families can look different than their own. We’re teaching them about healthy friendships and how to have good, respectful relationships with others. We do get into the baby stuff at that age (like “where do they come from?”), but it’s in an age-appropriate way that they can understand.
The most intense level of OWL is the 7th-9th grade class. This class is 26 sessions long and is one of the most important learning opportunities we offer. It is a formative experience for our youth and will stay with them as they navigate their way into adolescence and beyond. Sometimes the kids are not super-thrilled about it. But they come every week and they learn. They learn how to make informed and responsible decisions about their sexual health and behavior. The class provides accurate, developmentally-appropriate information about a range of topics, including relationships, gender identity, sexual orientation, sexual health, and cultural influences on sexuality. This is truly a comprehensive learning experience.
We are dedicated to offering as many OWL classes as we can here at UUCA. We are currently offering 7th/8th OWL and are about to offer 4th/5th OWL beginning in February. While this is one of our most popular programs (I frequently get phone calls from folks outside of our church wanting to get their kids into our program), it is also one of the most resource-consuming classes. Our teachers go to a special training and they commit to teaching OWL at least 3 times in the 5 years after they get trained. While the training is pretty intense and takes a whole weekend, it is so very rewarding. We are always looking for folks who want to get trained and I am always keeping an eye on upcoming trainings.
Kim Collins, Lifespan Religious Education Coordinator